Phantom pain in an empty bed
FRIDAY, December 11 – Every morning, somewhere between dream and reality, I still stretch out my arm to feel whether you are lying next to me. I run my hand over the mattress. Not that I expect to feel your bottom or your back, but, simply, because after eighteen years I’m still not used to lying there on my own in that huge bed.
Your pillows aren’t there anymore. They’re in the dresser. Every night I quite effortlessly fall asleep on my side of the bed. Not in the middle of the mattress, but on the right, where I belong. It is a strange sensation and yet familiar, briefly sliding my hand across to your side of the bed. It doesn’t make me sad and I tell myself that that in itself is a blessing.
When I turn on the light, I notice that the impression from my ring is still visible. I find myself fiddling with the ring which is no longer there. Phantom pain felt by an amputated husband.
17.30 – Sander is curled up on the couch as if he’s about to fall asleep. If it weren’t for the blinding headache, that is. He was looking pale when we arrived at the psychologist’s office. When she asked how we felt, I launched into an account of the past week, but Eamonn summarized it neatly: ‘It was tiring.’
He was right. We’re dead tired and exhausted by anger.
After the session, Sander went straight home. Eamonn and I bought our usual chocolate bar and with our bikes in hand we were about to step into the crosswalk when we were cut off by a car turning right, even though the light was still green for us. I slammed my hand down hard on the roof. The driver stopped and rolled his window down. I seized my chance.
He wanted to know what this was all about and so I told him. How my wife had been killed in a crosswalk. How his recklessness could have taken another life. I told him how outrageous his conduct was. And how angry I was. He was sorry. Sincerely sorry. But I was still furious and I walked away seething. I didn’t feel the slightest sense of relief.
Suddenly, I realized that Eamonn was standing right next to me. He was watching in silence. I’d totally forgotten him. I apologized. He got on the back of my bike and held me tight as we headed home. ‘Do you know what, Papa? I felt like shouting at that man, too.’
Earlier that day Sander and I were cycling down Beethoven Street when we heard the sound of police sirens in the distance. They were coming closer. Police cars and motorcycles were charging down Stadion Road. Sander turned around and said, ‘I don’t want to know. I want to go home.’ At home he threw his bike against a street lamp. ‘I hate the police,’ he hissed. ‘I really hate them.’
I let him.